THE current disclosure that the mega-rich pay very little in taxes must be cruelly contrary to Gordon Brown's redistributive instincts. He cannot impose conventional taxes - those you and I pay - as the opulent would flee our shores.
Until Mohamed al-Fayed forfeited his personal tax treaty in the High Court in Edinburgh, who would have appreciated that this stupendously rich Egyptian was domiciled in Easter Ross in his sumptuous castle? He may enjoy the midges of the Scottish Highlands but the tax dimension must have been a compelling factor.
Most of the outraged comment has assumed the Inland Revenue should jump upon the wealthy expatriates among us. I have a better idea. Let us bring the tax obligations upon all of us into line with those imposed on billionaires.
This illuminates a great paradox. We think the big tax havens are the obscure Caribbean islands plus Hong Kong and Singapore. We forget that, given enough cash, Edinburgh outranks all these locations as a place where capital is safe from the taxman.
The Adam Smith Institute computes that the average reader of The Scotsman works for the state until early June each year. It is not just income tax and national insurance that add up but all the other little and large taxes, such as vehicle taxes. So, I can understand the sentiment that the rich should pay proportionately.
It is an error. Scotland needs to remain a tax haven or there will be a flight from our financial institutions.
The OECD lists 40 tax jurisdictions that it says are unfairly liberal and relaxed. This is pure humbug. The UK is a very safe jurisdiction - and its burden is lower than those of the familiar tax haven regimes on tropical atolls.
I have never seen a public registering of the fact that the International Monetary Fund identified the UK as the most attractive tax haven on the planet - if you can negotiate non-domiciled status with the Inland Revenue. This is not ineptitude on the part of the taxmen - 10 per cent of £1 billion makes the state richer than a zero contribution that results from a wealthy family's flight.
We barely perceive a highly important fact. There is competition in taxation. Nations have to compete for the mega-rich. It is the rest of us who are held captive.
When George Bush hurried through Albania recently, who spotted that this newly liberated nation had cut its personal taxes and corporate taxes to a uniform 10 per cent? There are none of the complicated footnotes, exemptions, subsi